Today's Headlines and Commentary

Jordan Brunner
Friday, January 27, 2017, 1:28 PM

The Washington Post chronicles Trump’s actions as he starts to lay the groundwork for the nationalist foreign policy he promised during the campaign and in his inaugural address.

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The Washington Post chronicles Trump’s actions as he starts to lay the groundwork for the nationalist foreign policy he promised during the campaign and in his inaugural address. Trump’s actions include mandating a border wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and drafting executive orders that would halt all refugee admissions; declare a moratorium on new multilateral treaties; mandate audits of U.S. funding for international organizations; and review U.S. cyber capabilities and designations of foreign terrorist organizations.

The Kremlin has announced that Trump is set to speak by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend, the AP reports. According to a Russian government spokesman, the leaders will “exchange views about the main parameters about current bilateral relations.” Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sharply criticized the planned phone call, saying that Trump should “remember that the man on the other end of the line is a murderer and a thug” and denouncing reports that the White House is considering lifting sanctions against Russia. The Hill has more.

The New York Times informs us that the White House has walked back Trump’s endorsement of a proposal that would fund construction of the border wall through a 20 percent tax on all imported goods from Mexico, with the proceeds being used to fund the border wall that Trump wants to build. The tax plan, if implemented, could sharply increase the price of imported goods and reduce the profits of companies that produce them. It could also prompt a trade war if other countries were to retaliate. Meanwhile, the AP reports that Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan resigned after being asked to leave by the new administration.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is visiting the United States as the first foreign head of state to join Trump in the White House since his inauguration. In the wake of the United Kingdom’s vote to depart from the European Union, May is looking to shore up ties between the U.K. and the U.S., the Times writes—though it remains to be seen how she will prevail, given the radical shifts in foreign policy that Trump has proposed.

The Times tells us that the White House drafting a directive that calls on Defense Secretary James Mattis to devise plans to aggressively target ISIS. The military, which anticipated the move, began drafting classified options before Trump took office and will be ready to present them today when Trump visits the Pentagon. The potential options include expanding the use of Special Operations forces, raising the troop ceiling in Iraq and Syria, and having the White House delegate more authority to the Pentagon and its commanders in the field. The Pentagon will also have to decide whether to arm Syrian Kurds in advance of the battle for Raqqa, which risks further alienating Turkey at a time when the NATO ally has started to strengthen its ties to Russia.

The Guardian reports that British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson has dramatically reversed British policy on Syria, stating that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be able to run for re-election in the event of a peace settlement in Syria. Claiming that he had to be “realistic about how the landscape has changed,” due to the defeat of the rebel opposition in Aleppo, the inauguration of President Trump, and Turkey’s new rapprochement with Russia, Johnson said that the U.K. government is now “open-minded,” about how Assad leaves and the “timescale on which that happens.”

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the next round of Syrian peace talks in Geneva have been moved from February 8th to later that month, according to the AP. The announcement came without explanation. Turkey has been rattled by the presence of Syria’s leading Kurdish party, which the Russian Foreign Ministry called necessary. The Kurdish representatives presented Lavrov with a plan for a federalized Syria, which would diminish Assad’s authority over the country and bolster Kurdish gains in the north.

The BBC notes Turkish anger over the decision of a Greek court not to extradite eight Turkish soldiers accused of involvement in the failed coup in Turkey, which the Turkish government called “politically motivated.” The presiding judge, Giorgos Sakkas, said the men were unlikely to receive a fair trial in Turkey.

The AFP informs us that Iraqi children are flocking back to school in the wake of the liberation of eastern Mosul by Iraqi troops from ISIS. The children reportedly could not wait to return to school despite a lack of electricity, water, and schoolbooks at the facilities.

The Post reports that President Trump has tapped private equity fund manager Philip Bilden to replace Ray Mabus as the next Secretary of the Navy. Bilden has served on the board of directors of the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.

The Guardian tells us that al-Shabaab militants killed at least 57 Kenyan troops deployed with a peacekeeping mission near the Kenyan border, driving two car bombs into the base before storming it. Kenyan military officials have disputed the terrorist group’s claims to have gained control of the base where the attack took place. The attack comes on the heels of al-Shabaab’s killing of 28 people at a hotel in Mogadishu two days earlier.

Buzzfeed informs us that for a week after his inauguration, President Trump’s Twitter account was linked to a personal Gmail account, raising concerns among government officials and cybersecurity experts about the vulnerability of the account to hacking. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also displayed bad cyber hygiene when he appeared to accidentally tweet two passwords to an unknown account, with some suggesting that he was trying to log into Twitter using two-factor authentication and mistakenly tweeted the password.

Nextgov notes that cyber policy experts remain hopeful that Trump will adopt the majority of recommendations from the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity that President Obama created in the wake of the hack of the Office of Personnel Management after the new administration finishes its 90-day cyber review.

The Wall Street Journal tells us that Sebastian Gorka, a Breitbart national security editor who may be appointed to a senior position in the White House, is currently facing a criminal charge in Virginia for attempting to bring a gun on board a plane. Gorka is scheduled to appear at a sentencing hearing in early February.

The Miami Herald reports that all five accused plotters of the 9/11 terror attacks chose not to attend the deposition of Lee Hanson, who lost his daughter-in-law and granddaughter in the attacks. Hanson’s testimony may be disqualified from use at trial due to the absence of defense attorney Cheryl Bormann, who is healing from a broken arm.

ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare

Bobby Chesney introduced University of Texas School of Law’s new national security law podcast.

Daniel Byman pondered his greatest analytic mistakes during the Obama administration.

Adam Segal considered how best to rebuild trust between policymakers and Silicon Valley.

Benjamin Wittes posted the Rational Security Podcast: The “Centennial” Edition.

Stephanie Leutert and Savitri Arvey reviewed the prospects for Trump’s border wall.

Paul Rosenzweig provided an update and a correction to his article on possible links between Russian espionage arrests and America’s reaction to the hacking of the presidential election.

Paul also explored the implications of Trump’s executive order on “Enhancing Public Safety” on the Privacy Shield agreement.

Kenneth Pollack discussed the economic folly of President Trump’s suggestion that the United States “take” Iraqi oil.

Quinta Jurecic provided a reminder about the upcoming Hoover Book Soiree: Edward Jay Epstein on “How America Lost Its Secrets.”

Hugo Zylberberg proposed a security argument for data protection to prevent Russian interference in the upcoming elections in France and Germany.

Nicholas Weaver examined the dangers of Trump’s insecure Android phone and suggested what action could be taken to rectify them.

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Jordan A. Brunner is a graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, and was a national security intern at the Brookings Institution. Prior to law school, he was a Research Fellow with the New America Foundation/ASU Center for the Future of War, where he researched cybersecurity, cyber war, and cyber conflict alongside Shane Harris, author of @War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex. He graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Political Science.

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